Tuesday, August 16, 2022

How to deal with roommates

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Shreya Christinahttps://cafe-madrid.com
Shreya has been with cafe-madrid.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider cafe-madrid.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Rents are rising. Even outside of the most expensive U.S. urban centers like New York and San Francisco, finding an affordable apartment deal can be difficult. Unfortunately, there aren’t many signs that things are going to get much easier any time soon – in May, the median monthly rent in the US was $2,002, up nearly 15 percent from the same time last year. This is also the first time the median rent across the country has surpassed $2,000 – a milestone some experts not foreseen until August of this year.

For many, living with other people—whether that’s their parents or a group of strangers they found on a local renters Facebook group—has become one of the few viable options for finding affordable housing. Now more than ever, people live in “double” households, meaning they share a house with someone they don’t have a romantic relationship with. While doubling is by far the most common among people over 20, the percentage of older people who do so has steadily increased for all age groups since 2005, although this data also includes adults living with relatives.

Despite its prevalence, living with roommates is getting a bad rap. You’ve probably heard of the roommate from hell: someone who plays loud music late at night or turns every minor conflict into a dramatic confrontation. It’s a stale trope that the media often floods us with, from television series until BuzzFeed Articles. Even if it’s not the roommate from hell, life with roommates is often portrayed as a… last resort – a sacrifice to save money or gain a little independence from our family.

Growing up, my father often treated me and my family to stories of when he lived alone in an apartment in the 1980s. As I approached my parents’ financial independence, these anecdotes of city life resembled lore from a bygone era. My dad’s stories were certainly tinged with nostalgia, but they still felt quite detached from my reality—it seemed extremely unlikely that I would ever afford the kind of solo living my dad did when he was in his mid-20s.

So far, that prediction has turned out to be correct. But it hasn’t been nearly as bad as all those roommate-from-hell stories make it seem. In fact, it’s been a lot of fun. Having someone else near the apartment to gossip or do chores has made the place more lively and homey, especially when I first moved to a completely new city.

Humans are social animals. While living with strangers may not be ideal, it may well be a more natural arrangement than living alone in a small studio. Research suggests: that during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, people living with others were doing better mentally than those living alone. Home sharing has strong potential to reduce increasing loneliness and counter the atomization of modern life. If you’re as skeptical about the roommate relationship as I once was, try to keep an open mind: It’s probably better than you expect.

The right person (or people!)

For many people, the first time they live with roommates is when they go to college. The summer before college, I picked up a copy of advice columnist Harlan Cohen’s The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Problems You Might Face In College to prepare myself for living in a dorm. Six years after I first read his book, I spoke with Cohen via Zoom to learn more about life with roommates after college.

While colleges often have methodical practices for matching roommates to take the burden of finding a roommate off the shoulders of students, life after college isn’t so easy. You may be tempted to move in with a close friend to simplify the search process, but Cohen is a little suspicious of this.

Hanging out with someone in your social circle doesn’t necessarily mean the dynamics will be the same if you live together. Cohen adds that friends can take advantage of their pre-existing relationship, putting less effort into hanging out as roommates.

“Friendship is a bonus – it would be great to be friends and we might like to be friends, but it’s okay if we aren’t,” he says.

It might be better to find someone you don’t know very well – a friend of a friend or even a stranger. Obviously, you’ll want to research future roommates to make sure they’re a good match. Asking potential roommates the right questions is an important preventative measure for common conflicts such as a cluttered common room or conflicting sleep schedules. Someone’s answers to questions like “What time do you usually go to bed?” and “What are some problems you’ve had with former roommates?” may shed light on your compatibility.

Online roommate matching services like housemates or RoomieMatch can filter out some basics, but you should learn more about your roommate through an honest and candid conversation with them before agreeing to move in together. Identify what is critical to you in your living space; knowing a potential roommate’s perspectives on cleanliness, quiet time, and other boundaries is key to an understanding roommate relationship.

The most important thing is that you start the search for roommates with a positive attitude. Researchers have found that people with negative attitudes toward living with others may experience increased dysfunction when living with roommates, while those with positive attitudes who move in may experience improved mental health.

“I find that the people who worry most about living with a roommate from hell are often the hardest people to live with,” says Cohen. “They are so concerned and have so much fear and anxiety that comes into their relationship that it creates challenges when they live together.”

Find the right space

As the old saying goes, “a house doesn’t make a house.” It turns out that any old two-bedroom apartment doesn’t have to be either.

Finding the right spot is hard, but it’s an important part of making sure you and your roommates feel comfortable with each other. After all, you don’t want to create resentment because you and your roommate wanted to rush to sign a lease for a unit that has barely any closet space.

In addition, some housemates may require specific accessibility accommodations that you should take into account when looking for a home. Your individual budgets will inevitably play a part in the search as well, and you’ll want to distribute rent fairly according to factors such as monthly income and the relative size of your private spaces (ie bedrooms and bathrooms).

It’s helpful to create a list of priorities — things like location, size, specific amenities, etc. — that you and your roommates can rank together in order of importance. Not only will this give you a starting point in what to look for when looking for housing, but it will also be a useful exercise in the art of compromise.

If you’re open to sacrificing a little privacy and living with a slightly larger group of people, co-living spaces may be worth considering. Like Scott Corfe defines themco-living spaces such as The collective or the now-defunct We live are “a system of housing in which individuals have access to a range of shared, communal facilities” such as gyms, co-working spaces and even movie lounges.

Corfe, the research director of the Social Market Foundation, tells me that co-living developments can be a creative solution to the affordable housing crisis, despite their flaws. By uniting a community under one (fairly affordable) roof, he says these spaces intuitively have the potential to reduce loneliness among their residents.

“This is clearly not the solution to all the problems in the housing market,” he says, adding that it is a much-needed innovation.

Corfe admits that living together isn’t for everyone, but you can still create a community in an apartment environment. Living with a roommate or two is an interesting way to get a better understanding of how other people navigate the world. You don’t necessarily have to be best friends, but putting in the extra effort to be friendly and spend time together will make you feel right at home.

Finding the Right Rules

As I prepared to live in a three-person dorm for my freshman year of college, I was a little nervous. I had heard so many bad stories that the roommate from hell seemed inevitable.

Sure, there were some issues the three of us had to work on – like our clashing sleep schedules, for example – but all in all it was a pretty pleasant experience.

Part of what made living together so easy was the fact that our hall’s home advisor brokered a brief regulatory call at the beginning of our first quarter. Setting boundaries early is crucial, Cohen says, even if you don’t have RA to nag you to set these rules like I did.

In a TikTok he posted a few weeks before our meeting, Cohen suggested a rule he calls the “uncomfortable rule” — a sort of golden rule that aims to nip conflict between roommates in the bud. “The awkward rule says that if one of us is uncomfortable with something happening, we have to share it within 24 to 48 hours or we won’t share it,” Cohen tells WebMD. “You can’t hold someone responsible for something you don’t share.”

In addition to Cohen’s awkward rule, try to discuss responsibilities such as household chores and what’s acceptable when it comes to alcohol consumption or overnight guests. If conflicts do arise – and they probably will – you and your roommates can come back to this conversation to discuss the best course of action.

By coming up with these rules, you and your roommates can renegotiate and compromise — chances are you won’t agree on everything, and that’s fine. By working to find a middle ground, you hone skills that will benefit you in other interpersonal relationships, such as living with a romantic partner.

These rules set a framework for a rather unique relationship that can develop into friendship, something that is especially valuable in a society where people often start losing friends after their third decade of life. From getting opportunities to learn more about another culture To try new foods, Cohen says the benefits of living with a roommate are countless.

“With a roommate, you have someone you can spend time with — if it’s someone who likes to spend time with you, you can get a boyfriend,” says Cohen. “And if it’s someone you don’t like to spend time with, you may benefit from figuring out how to get comfortable with an awkward situation.”

Andrew Warner is a New York City-based reporter on education and culture.

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